« Shall Not Be Denied, » a Library of Congress’s exhibition

The Library of Congress has launched a series of exhibitions, events and programs around the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The « Shall Not Be Denied » exhibition was launched on June 4, 2019. It is the « centerpiece exhibition » and explains the long movement and campaign for women’s right to vote. This movement lasted for about seven decades, during which women created organizations, lobbies, undertook parades, petitions, lectures, and even faced imprisonment. 

 The Library has an important collection of personal papers of important women of the movement such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Staton, or Mary Church Terrell. It also holds the archives of various organizations such as the National Woman’s Party or the National American Woman Suffrage Association and many others. These archives are exhibited in order to inform the general public about the various struggles women faced to obtain the same rights as men. 

The new exhibition, “Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote” will open June 4, 2019 at the Library of Congress. Source: The Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-19-002/?utm_source=washingtonorg&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=shall-not-be-denied-women-fight-vote).

You can explore the exhibition online, on The Library of Congress website (https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/women-fight-for-the-vote/about-this-exhibition/%23explore-the-exhibit). It is divided into five main sections, each one presenting one part of the movement’s struggle. Each section displays items that show archives from the period. The first one is entitled « Seneca Falls and Building a Movement, 1776-1890. » It explores the origins of the movement from the Declaration of Independence, which brought the idea of equality to the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the creation of the National American Woman Suffrage (NAWSA) in 1890.

 The second section goes from the 1890 onwards and is entitled « New Tactics for a New Generation, 1890-1915. » It focuses on the victories achieved by suffragists before the turn of the 20th century. It explores the strategies used by these activists until the 1913 first national suffrage parade.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), ca. 1870. Photograph. NWP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (027.00.00). Source: The Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/women-fight-for-the-vote/about-this-exhibition/seneca-falls-and-building-a-movement-1776-1890/).

The third section is entitled « Confrontation, Sacrifice, and the Struggle for Democracy, 1916-1917. »  It explores new issues, as the « state-by-state strategy was taking too long. » Differences remained between the NAWSA and the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Some women stopped campaigning for suffrage as the First World War progressed but others, such as NWP members, did not support the war effort. The section ends in 1917 with the arrest of suffragists who were picketing in front of the White House. 

The fourth section is entitled « Hear Us Roar: Victory, 1918 and Beyond. » It explores the strategies that led to the 19th Amendment, i.e. civil disobedience by suffragists, the strategic lobbying of Congress and women’s wartime contributions. During the 1920 elections, women were finally able to vote. The section explains that the NAWSA transformed into the League of Women Voters to continue other fights such as « education, citizen participation, legal, economic, and educational advancement of women. » 

“Honor Roll,” listing thirty-six states in the order they ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. The Suffragist, vol. VIII, no. 8, September 1920. NWP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.00.00). Source: The Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/women-fight-for-the-vote/about-this-exhibition/hear-us-roar-victory-1918-and-beyond/ratification-and-beyond/tennessee-makes-it-36/).

Finally, the very last section, « More to the Movement » gives additional information. The items of this section show the diversity of women who participated in this movement: white women, women of color and Native American women. It was a movement for all women regardless of their color or of their social class. However, the fight continued for women of color after 1920.

If you want to prepare your visit to the exhibition, you can buy the special companion to the exhibition entitled Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote. You can access the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Shall-Not-Be-Denied-Women/dp/1978808917

For further information you can access the following links:

Library of congress

Explore the exhibit

Marine Gomes

Neuman, Johanna. And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the Right to Vote. Wiley-Blackwell, December 5, 2019.

To celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Johanna Neuman published her book And Yet They Persisted : How American Women vote the Right to Vote, Wiley-Blackwell, 2019. The book retraces the women’s suffrage in the US movement from 1776 up to 1965.

The book’s cover, available on https://www.johannaneuman.com/book/how-american-women-won-the-right-to-vote/

Johanna Neuman is an author, a journalist and an historian who is usually works on the woman suffrage in the United-States. She received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and currently holds the title of Scholar in Residence, History Department, American University. Among her writings, her well acclaimed book Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote was published in 2017.

Photograph shows the author Johanna Neuman with the cover of her 2017’s book Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote. Source : www.suffrageandthemedia.org/source/interview-johanna-neuman-gilded-suffragists/.

In the preview of her book, Johanna Neuman points out the idea that most historians begin the story of the women’s suffrage movement in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood in public to demand the right to vote at a women’s right convention in Seneca Falls in New York City this is actually not true. Lisa Tetrault’s book on the myth of Seneca Falls has changed this interpretation. Johanna Neuman shows that most historians end the story of the suffrage movement in 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. 

Johanna Neuman carefully expands our understanding of that history. She exposes how women have fought to have voting rights for two centuries, from the very beginning of the US independence -when women used revolutionary fervor to ask for their rights- to the 1965 Voting Rights Act -when African-American women in the South had to fight Jim Crow laws to win the right to vote.

photograph was taken in Washington D.C. in 1964, it shows from left to right: Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Jackson Gray, and Annie Devine. Those women are all Civil Rights Activists and members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. They became the first black women to speak before the United States House of Representatives. Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/31/magazine/31gray.t.html

In her exploration of women’s rights, Johanna Neuman explains several tactics used by suffragists to gain equal citizenship. For example, in the 1830s women launched petition drives, attended suffrage conventions in the 1850s, and strategized to win victories in the states beginning in the 1870s and lobbied Congress in the 1910s to enact the Nineteenth Amendment. 

Photograph showing suffragists parading down Pennsylvania avenue in Washington, DC, 1913. Records of the U.S. Information Agency, Record Group 306; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/marching-suffrage-parade-dc

To promote her book, Johanna Neuman shows how women convinced lawmakers it was in their political interests to enfranchised women, that it would not emasculate men or harm the family. Women’s persistence on that matter enabled them to attend college, to get the right to have property, to stand as equals in marriage, child education and inheritance. What Neuman wants to highlight is that the determination of those women, throughout history, enable today’s women to have basic privileges that were once, out of their reach. 

Bibliography : 

In order to write this billet, I used the different articles found on Johanna Neuman’s Blog : “Women’s Suffrage – Johanna Neuman – Historian & Journalist.” Johanna Neuman, www.johannaneuman.com/.

Neuman, Johanna. “Johanna Neuman Biography: Award-Winning Women’s Suffrage Historian.” Johanna Neuman, www.johannaneuman.com/johanna-neuman-bio/.

Merrine Vanhille

Bennett, April Young, Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists, Brown Blackwell Books, June 4, 2019.

“Having courageously navigated the patriarchal waters of her religious community and beyond, April Young Bennett is a seasoned and articulate voice for women’s equality. Her feminist activism, like her writing, remains consistently clear, intelligent, engaging and informed.”

—Lorie Winder Stromberg, Co-founder, Equal in Faith; Executive Board Member, Ordain Women

April Young Bennett is a writer and the host of a podcast entitled Religious Feminism Podcast. She is a feminist and an activist who advocates “for women, children and underserved populations.” As the title of the book suggests, it explores the first generation of American suffragists in the 1830s through the 1860s, who inspired the new generations. The book links feminists of today and of yesterday by placing 19th-century activism “in the context of the present-day, ongoing struggle for equality.” It “channels the first generation of American feminists as exemplars and advisors as we seek modern solutions” (booktopia.com.au). The book is organized chronologically and thematically by exposing a question by chapter, such as “how can we make our voices heard?” or “is religion compatible with a feminist movement?”

In the 1830s, the idea of equality for women was a new one. The struggles of feminism are entangled with other struggles such as the abolition of slavery, the fight for the expansion of educational and professional opportunities for women, the struggle for racial justice, and temperance.  (Bennett, April Young. « Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists. » Last Modified October 1, 2019. https://askasuffragist.com/coming-spring-2019-americas-first-feminists/.)The book brings topics such as the field of medicine concerning women’s practice, religion, men’s place in the feminist movement or art within the framework of first-wave feminism. April Y. Bennett uses many historical letters, speeches, and newspapers to feed her argumentation. 

First cover of the book Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists. Source: askasuffragist.com

As suggested by the cover of the book,  which represents Frances Ellen Watkins Harper—a famous feminist and abolitionist—women of color played a vital role in first-wave feminism. April Y. Bennett also included white women, who were crucial in this crusade as well—such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony. Women were not the only ones who played a part in this first wave since men, such as Frederick Douglass or William Lloyd Garrison, supported it as well. 

She justifies the use of the term « suffragist » instead of « suffragette » in an interview by explaining that at the time of first-wave feminism the term « suffragette » referred to British rather than American activism (Bennett, April Young. « Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists. » Last Modified October 1, 2019. https://askasuffragist.com/coming-spring-2019-americas-first-feminists/.)

The book synthesizes the history of first-wave feminism. It highlights and celebrates the diversity of the figures of this first wave. Moreover, it explains very well how these figures did not always agree on the ways to achieve their goals. 

For further information you can access the following links:


Marine Gomes

Exhibition “Votes For Women: A Portrait of Persistence” at the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. had organized since March, 29, 2019 an exhibition entitled “Votes For Women : A Portrait of Persistence” which ends on January 5, 2020. It is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative “Because of Her Story” that collects, shares stories of inspiring women who contributed and who still contribute to women’s equality in the nation and in the world. (see more information about “Because of Her Story” initiative on  womenshistory.si.edu). 

Source: Meyer, Jonathan. “What To See In Washington DC.” What To See In Washington DC, Mar. 2019, whattoseeinwashingtondc.com/index.php/2019/04/05/two-in-a-million/.

The exhibition is divided chronologically and thematically and shows American women’s struggle to gain equality from 1832 through 1919 until today. It gives a particular place to pioneers of the movement who greatly contributed in the struggle for women’s suffrage such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth and participants in the 1848 Sececa Falls convention such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone. The exhibition also sheds lights on activists such as Alicia Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucy Burns and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President in 1872.

Signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls (1848).
Source : US Census Bureau. “Signatures to the ‘Declaration of Sentiments.’” The United States Census Bureau, 27 Aug. 2019, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/sis/resources/historical-documents/declaration-sentiments.html.

By opening with a page from The Liberator -an abolitionist newspaper- featuring an engraving of an enslaved woman, the exhibition gives a particular place to the role of Black women in the suffrage movement and shows how women of color were kept apart from the main suffrage organizations. Some of the women of color who fought for the right to vote are presented in the exhibit : Sarah Remond, who filed one of the earliest lawsuit protesting race segregation; Ida B. Wells and her curse against lynchings; Mary Church Terrell, the founder of the National Association of Colored Women (1896) and Patsy Takemoto Mink, who became the first non-white female member of Congress in 1965.

Photograph shows four early members of the NACW. From left to right : Mary McLeod Bethune (president from 1924 to 1938), Julia West Hamilton (treasurer), Ella P. Stewart (president from 1948-1952) and Mary Church Terrell (first president, 1896 to 1904).
source : Ohio Memory Collection ‘National Association of Colored Women Photograph.” Ohio History Connection, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/15691

The exhibition also diplays original photographic portraits, paintings, engravings, works on paper, lithographs, video, newspapers, postcards, books, ballots, banners, fliers, a china set, embroidery and pennants. By recounting the incredible stories of those inspiring women, curator Dr. Kate Clarke Lemay shows how the struggle to gain equality was still in process after the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1919.

Dr. Kate Clarke Lemay will be a part of the conference. She will present the importance of women’s suffrage movement in American History.

You may see more information about the exhibition by following the link:   https://npg.si.edu/exhibition/votes-for-women?utm_source=washingtonorg&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=votes-women-portrait-persistence

Sources :

Jenkins, Mark. “This Smithsonian Exhibition Follows the Long Road to Women’s Suffrage.”
The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/museums/this-smithsonian-exhibition-follows-the-long-road-to-womens suffrage/2019/04/18/102865d4-5f8e-11e9-9ff2-abc984dc9eec_story.html.

“Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence.” National Portrait Gallery, 26 June 2018,

Merrine Vanhille

“How the Daughters and Granddaughters of Former Slaves Secured Voting Rights for All,” Martha Jones.

Martha Jones is a professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. More precisely she is a legal and cultural historian of African Americans. She is the author of several books, notably Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum American, and the forthcoming  2020 book Vanguard: A Political History of African American Women. She will be one of the speakers at the International Conference ‘‘‘How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?:’ Woman Suffrage and Women’s Citizenship in the Long History of the 19th Amendment,’’ where she will present her forthcoming book.

Martha Jones looks at the question of how the daughters and granddaughters of former slaves secured voting rights for all women. She focuses on the questions of race and gender in the context of the Voting Rights Act and the history of Black people’s vote. In this article, M. Jones is presenting several African American women who fought for women’s right to vote. 

Martha Jones explains that African American women have a history of fighting for their rights—here the Voting Rights Act— in ‘‘their own way.’’ She acknowledges the fact that black women and white women clashed at some point during this campaign for the Voting Rights Act.  

 She highlights the importance of the Church in the history of black women and their activism. It was the place where African American women could develop ‘‘their sense of rights and how then to organize for them.’’ She explains her argument through the relevant example of a black woman, Julia Foote, who became the leader of a churchwomen’s movement advocating for women to ‘‘be entitled to occupy pulpits and interpret the scriptures.’’ They won the case in 1848, the very same year of the Seneca Falls Convention.

Julia Foote, source: “Julia A. J. Foote,” wikiwand.

Black women and men fought for their enfranchisement. Yet, at the time of the 15th Amendment, a sort of consensus was reached among black women that the franchise for all men, regardless of their race, should be obtained before their own suffrage. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was one of these women. For Martha Jones, Watkins Harper was a ‘‘political visionary’’ because she advocated a spirit of unity among women of color. Yet, divergences of opinions existed among women and they divided into two associations: the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Both defended women’s right to vote, but the former was in favor of the 15th Amendment, and the latter was against it because it did not include women’s suffrage. 

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, source: “How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women,” history.com.

Further in the article, Martha Jones looks at Eliza Gardner, who started her career with church activism. She was among the women who founded the National Conference of Colored Women in 1895. With other black female activists they ‘‘tackle[ed] national problems’’ such as ‘‘the rise of segregation, racial violence and the disenfranchisement that affected black men and women alike.’’

Eliza Gardner, source: “Eliza Ann Gardner,” Wikipedia.

 It is the very fact that black women ‘‘had always strived to enhance their power’’ that allowed them to obtain the right to vote in Illinois, in 1916. Through their churches and clubs, they became activists who were engaged in marching, electioneering or even voting. Illinois was only the first step towards the 19th Amendment in 1920. Gender and race shaped black women’s history and fight for their rights. Michelle Obama highlighted this fact by saying that it was what shaped black women’s political identities. 

You can access the entire article written by Martha Jones and further details by following this link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-daughters-and-granddaughters-former-slaves-secured-voting-rights-all-180971660/

Marine Gomes

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